30 Teams in 30 Days

2020-21 NBA Season Preview: The Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal era begins for Washington Wizards

The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 23. To get you ready for the year to come, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.

Today, the Washington Wizards take the spotlight.

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2019-20 season record

25-47, 9th in the Eastern Conference

Notable additions

Deni Avdija, No. 9 pick in 2020 NBA Draft

Cassius Winston, No. 53 pick in 2020 NBA Draft

Russell Westbrook, Trade (Houston Rockets)

Robin Lopez, Free agency (Milwaukee Bucks)

Notable departures

John Wall, Trade (Houston Rockets)

Jerian Grant, Free agency (Houston Rockets)

Ian Mahinmi, Free agency

Shabazz Napier, Free agency

Depth chart

Starter 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Russell Westbrook Ish Smith Raul Neto Cassius Winston
SG Bradley Beal Jerome Robinson
SF Deni Avdija Troy Brown Jr. Isaac Bonga
PF Davis Bertans Rui Hachimura Anthony Gill
C Thomas Bryant Robin Lopez Moritz Wagner

3 key storylines

The All-Star duo of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal

Washington's success this season hinges on Westbrook and Beal getting on the same page.

Together, Westbrook and Beal have the potential to be one of the highest scoring duos in the league, but learning how to play alongside each other will take an adjustment.

A big reason Westbrook reportedly wanted to be traded from the Rockets is because he wanted a role similar to the one he had in Oklahoma City. He should look a lot more like the player he was with the Thunder with the Wizards, but he won't have complete control of the offence after the season Beal just had.

As I wrote a few weeks ago...

Beal has played next to a high usage point guard before in Wall, but he's coming off of a season that saw him thrive as Washington's primary ball handler. Sporting the fifth-highest usage rating in the league (34.4 percent), Beal averaged career highs of 30.5 points and 6.1 assists per game. The Wizards were one of the worst teams in the league despite Beal going Super Saiyan, but that had more to do with who was surrounding him than his ability to be the No. 1 option on a competitive team.

Because of his limitations as a shooter, Westbrook needs the ball in his hands to be effective. Again, Beal has proven to be a good enough shooter and cutter to share the backcourt with another high usage player, but Brooks will have his work cut out figuring out how they can both get theirs harmoniously.

If Brooks can get them on the same page, the Wizards should be able to make the playoffs off of the strength of their All-Star duo alone. If he can't ... things could get interesting in Washington.

Davis Bertans shooting the lights out - again

Bertans is coming off of a breakout season with the Wizards.

Not only did he average a career-best 15.4 points per game, Bertans attempted 8.7 3-pointers per game and knocked them down at a 42.4 percent clip.

Only five other players in NBA history have ever matched that volume and that accuracy from the 3-point line. Those players? Stephen Curry (five times), Klay Thompson (twice), Ray Allen (once), Damian Lillard (once) and Duncan Robinson (once).

Pretty good company for Bertans to be in, wouldn't you say?

The Wizards are banking big on Bertans being able to replicate last season's hot shooting, signing him to a five-year, $80 million contract in the offseason. Him shooting the lights out again would go a long way in Westbrook and Beal reaching their offensive potential because of the spacing it would provide both of them.

Defence, defence, defence

The Wizards struggled defensively last season, to say the least.

According to NBA.com, they gave up 114.7 points per 100 possessions, giving them the second-worst defensive rating in the NBA. The only team that was worse than them was the Cleveland Cavaliers, who gave up only 0.1 more points per 100 possessions per game than the Wizards.

The Blazers were in a similar position as the Wizards last season - dynamite offensively but a disaster defensively - but they addressed their greatest weakness by signing Derrick Jones Jr. and trading for Robert Covington in the offseason. The Wizards addressed their defensive woes by ... trading for Westbrook and signing Robin Lopez?

Westbrook can guard multiple positions and is usually among the league leaders in steals while Lopez has long been one of the league's most effective rim protectors, but it's a lot to expect them to turn the Wizards into a competent defensive team again.

The Wizards should at least be one of the best offensive teams in the league this season, but their defence could ultimately be their downfall unless they make some more changes prior to the trade deadline.

5 games to watch

Dec. 24 at Philadelphia 76ers

Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal take the court for the first time as teammates against a new-look 76ers team.

Jan. 4 at Brooklyn Nets

It'll always be worth watching Westbrook and Kevin Durant go head-to-head. They've played against each other eight times as opponents, with Durant posting averages of 32.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists to Westbrook's 29.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 9.4 assists.

Jan. 27 at Houston Rockets

Whether James Harden is still on the team or not, Westbrook's first time playing the Rockets since the offseason's blockbuster trade should be a good one.

There's also this:

Jan. 30 vs. Atlanta Hawks

A battle between two teams hoping to return to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this season. This should be a high-scoring affair.

Feb. 16 vs. Houston Rockets

John Wall returns to Washington for the first time since the trade. The No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Wall became a five-time All-Star with the Wizards and is considered to be one of the greatest players in franchise history.

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